With the change of season from summer into autumn, now is the time for a new Autumn menu at Seasons 52. Autumn is a favorite time of year for many, and a great time of the year to enjoy late-harvest crops such as squash, mushrooms and pumpkin. Last night I was able to taste some of the new (or updated) offerings at Seasons 52 in Cherry Hill New Jersey as part of their “Drink Them Before They’re Famous” wine program. Master Sommelier George Miliotes at Seasons 52 always does a wonderful job pairing interesting wines with Chef Clifford Pleau’s menu, and I always walk away from one of these events with new wines on my “must buy” list. Last night was no exception.
We started with a tasting of two of Seasons 52’s new appetizers for the season: Double Hummus & Sea Salt Lovash, and Portobello Mushroom Flatbread. I always enjoy the flatbread at Seasons 52 and this might be one of my favorites to date. It had a strong flavor of roasted garlic that paired well with the creamy topping and perfectly cooked mushrooms. The hummus is plated beautifully and with a lovely color contrast: green minted edamame hummus and red-roasted chili hummus. In retrospect I wish I had tasted more than one bite of each, but I was concerned because hummus is often made with raw garlic and I have a pretty intense raw garlic intolerance. But during the live video broadcast with Miliotes and Pleau, I asked Pleau about his use of garlic in Seasons 52 menu, and I was pleased by his answer that he basically always used either roasted or lightly sauted garlic in their menu. He pointed out the richer, more complex flavor that comes from cooking garlic and I agree 100% – it also means I don’t have to worry about what I eat at Seasons 52 because it’s not going to set off a reaction for me!
These two starters were paired with a delightful and unique wine, Vista Hills Orange Pinot Gris, Williamette ’11. While rose wines are not usually my favorite, this was far from your typical “rose” and had a nice crispness – just slightly sweet – that went great with the earthy mushrooms and the subtle flavor of the hummus. This is a wine I’m adding to my home “wish list”, especially for Autumn when the orange color is a welcome surprise (I could actually see this being an excellent Thanksgiving dinner wine…)
Next up was one of the new seasonal appetizers: Cider-Glazed Grilled Chicken Skewers with Fuji Apple Slaw, Sun-Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. I absolutely adored the crisp sweet-tartness of the apple slaw – that’s a salad I always enjoy making a similar version of myself in Autumn. While a beautifully plated dish, I wasn’t totally blown away by the chicken; it was tender but the flavor wasn’t memorable enough to me that I’d necessarily order this dish again (I was hoping to sample the New Zealand Venison Chili now on the menu, but I’ll just have to return for dinner one night to try that.) My dining companion also loved the apple slaw but something in the spices on the chicken didn’t work for him. It was, however, again successfully paired with Farrier Andiron Semillon wine. This was a crisp and light white wine that I would say anyone who likes Sauvignon Blanc should try.
More successful overall to me was the new entree salad, Maple Leaf Farms Sesame Duck over chopped greens, apples, mint, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted pecans. Miliotes commented in the webcast that it made him think of a Fall-themed waldorf salad and that’s certainly a good comparison, although with more of an Asian spicy-sweet flavor with a dressing that had hints of red chili that gave a nice “heat” to the finish of every bite. The small cubes of apple and butternut squash brought welcome color and texture to the dish as well. It worked paired with the Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras white wine. Made from a Godello grape varietal that was nearly extinct 20 years ago, it reminded me of a slightly oaky chardonnay, a little (but not overpoweringly) buttery.
Our next course was actually a repeat from the summer menu, the Piedmontese All-Natural Bone-in Strip Steak served with roasted asparagus, cremini mushrooms, and fingerling potatoes. Truthfully, I was hoping we’d get to sample something different from the new menu – I would have loved to have tasted the Wood-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with herb polenta in a shallot-Dijon glaze – but this has apparently been a big hit since it’s introduction and I will admit I liked it better this time around than at my first tasting (the steak was jucier and tender.) Unfortunately for our “family style” platters, the asparagus was extremely large, tough, and virtually inedible. Asparagus to me is a spring vegetable which is best enjoyed when young and tender shoots are at their best. That said, of the wines we were served for the evening the Tilia Bonarda Mendoza red was my favorite of the night. Though described as a lighter red than the ones to follow, I just loved the layers of flavor – berries and toasty notes but with an extremely smooth finish. I will be picking up bottles of this for home, for sure!
Our last course was a very nice Manchester Farms All-Natural Grilled Quail served with spinach and mushroom risotto. Now, this dish was delicious. I would absolutely order it on my own, especially for that amazing risotto. The spinach added a nice green touch to the plate as well as cutting through some of the richness of the creamy risotto. The quail was extremely tender and flavorful…I wanted to go for more but was just getting too full by that point of the evening. We were actually given two wines to try with this dish: “New World” Michael David Petite Petit and “Old World” Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess I’m an Old World kind of gal as I liked the Glenelly better for cutting through the richness of the quail dish – the dryness of the wine was much appreciated. However, my dining companion who tends toward lighter wines liked the Petitie Petit better.
Somehow I saved a little room for dessert, tasting two of their mini indulgences: this time the new Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Snap Crust and the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli. There’s not much I can say about either except for an enthusiastic “YUM”.
All told, it was another successful dinner, perhaps this time more for the wonderful wine samplings than a couple of the dishes for me, although there were certainly dishes I enjoyed tremendously: the duck salad, the quail, the portobello flatbread. I do want to get to Seasons 52 again this fall to sample some of the other new menu offerings before the winter comes around, and I recommend that you do the same!
Seasons 52 At Cherry Hill Mall
2000 Route 38 Suite 1145
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002